Glaucoma is actually a collection of eye conditions that gradually damage the optic nerve over time. Since the optic nerve carries signals from the eye to the brain, it can result in vision loss. In fact, it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, according to the American Optometric Association.
What are the different types of glaucoma?
- Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most prevalent type and occurs when the eye’s drainage canals do not function properly. When this happens, inner eye pressure increases and vision deteriorates slowly. The Glaucoma Research Foundation estimates that about three million people in the U.S. have primary open-angle glaucoma. Fortunately, early detection and medication can help. Eye drops and laser surgery can be used, as well.
- Angle-closure glaucoma is a much less common form of the disease known for causing a rapid increase in eye pressure. It occurs due to blocked drainage canals in the eye. Surgery to help unblock these canals is an effective treatment option.
- Normal pressure glaucoma is when glaucoma occurs even when eye pressure is normal. It is more prevalent among people of Japanese descent and the cause is unclear. Treatment includes medication and surgery to further reduce eye pressure.
- Secondary glaucoma is the result of a primary eye condition or an injury that damages the optic nerve.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Unfortunately, glaucoma is associated with few symptoms. The most common first sign is loss of peripheral vision. However, since this generally happens gradually over time, it can be hard to detect. In rarer, more severe cases, symptoms may be more immediate and include headaches, blurred vision and eye pain.
Who is at risk for glaucoma?
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, everyone is susceptible to glaucoma. Even so, some groups are considered to have a higher risk and should keep up with routine eye exams every one to two years. These groups include:
- People of African or Asian descent
- People over the age of 60
- People with a family history of glaucoma
- Older Hispanic people
- People who use steroids
Glaucoma can be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam that typically includes a visual acuity test and other in-depth assessments. There is currently no cure.